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Since I'm fairly proficient with computers and technology, my boss has asked me to set up a PC-based home theater system for him. This is the first time I've really delved into this field, so i'm looking for advice. At this point I'm still debating whether to go with something like a SageTV box, or just an HTPC running XBMC, but that's a subject for another thread; right now, I'm exploring options for external storage.

My boss's main objective is store his DVD collection. He currently has 400, and wants spare capacity to triple that. He likes the idea of creating full ISOs of all his movies; at an average of 7 GB per disc, i'm looking at 8-12 TB of storage (he also wants music and photos to go on the system). I'm guessing I will need either an NAS box or a full home server, which would connect to the front-end system by wired ethernet. So, here are my questions:

1. Any suggestions other than NAS/home server?
2. Any preferred NAS or server systems for this purpose?
3. My first thought would be a RAID-5 configuration - thoughts?
4. Any aspects of this i'm not considering?

Thanks,
Chris
 

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Hi dchall1,

Welcome to the Shack!!!

Your questions are way above my paygrade, but I'm sure there are other folks here that can help you out. :T
 

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What is the signifigance of using RAID 5 instead of RAID 0 or 0+1? I've read the performance is slightly better with the RAID 0. I use RAID 0 on a machine I use to perform DVD copy-control. I have two 750MB drives using a RAID 0 to make a 1.5TB drive. The two drive RAID allows multiple drives to look like one, while allowing increased I/O. The downside is if one of the drives fails, both go down until the failed drives is functional.
 

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My understanding is that RAID-5 prevents me from losing the entire array if one drive goes down (as would happen with RAID-0). However, i confess that I'm getting this from Wikipedia, having no hands-on experience with a RAID setup. I'm simply looking for a low-cost, highly-reliable solution.
 

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My MythTV box sports 4 x 500GB in a RAID5 config. The purpose of RAID5 is to protect against drive failure, but still be expandable.

Mirrored drives can only store the size of one disk, but can handle one disk failing. Performance is roughly equiv to that of a non mirrored drive (dep on RAID controller)
Striped is risky but fast! Either disk dies and all data is lost.
RAID5 requires at least 3 drives and gives you the capacity of "disk capacity" X (# of disks - 1)

When I built my MythTV box two years ago, 500GB drives were the sweet spot (750GB price was insane). So I bought 4 500GB and put them in a RAID5 array. This gave me 1.5TB of storage. The same as if I striped 2 750GBs, but with protection against drive failure (as if I mirrored). AND I have the ability to expand if I want to add more disks.

RAID5 i/o requires a GOOD RAID controller. Its a little slower than one disk on its own because there is some overhead, but with a good controller (i.e. not an onboard controller) its a minimal hit for lots of expansion and protection.
 

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If 8tb is your minimum, you'll need 4 bays min (2tb x 4), and that won't offer you any data redundancy. Something tells me that after ripping 400 movies for this guy you're not going to want to do it a second time.

I'd say you want an 8 bay NAS fo some kind in Raid 5.

Now I'm also assuming you don't want to be running tech support for this guy for the rest of your life. Go with a Drobo pro, it will be easy to populate with 5 drives to give you 8tb to start with, and easy for him to upgrade later (maybe by then, 2.5TB disks will be out, and with drobo, you can mix and match drive sizes). It's pricier than other options, but this won't be a cheap setup no matter how you look at it, and it will be dumb simple so you won't have to get a phone call if a drive fails. And, if you match it up with a drobo share for networking, you can keep the whirring of those drives out of the main HT room for a low noise floor. The code "cali" may still be active and save some $$.

You could also get the standard drobo for about 6 TB to start with, and just buy a 2nd one when/if he outgrows that.

As for the front end, just build something with decent power, hardware assisted decoding in the graphics card, and as low noise as you can get if it's going to be in the room. You could probably get a core 2 duo running with passive cooling, if you wanted.

For secondary zones like a kitchen or guest room, consider a popcorn hour running a clean front end like this: http://www.treasure-cove.net/moviejukebox.htm
 

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I'll second the Drobo as a simple solution, but not cheap. Its a cool piece of gear though.
You could certainly do something bigger for cheaper, but then, yes, you may be lumped with supporting it.

For the front end, why not go Popcorn Hour even in the primary zone? Its an impressive little device for not much money. Its what I am going to use in my HT (I already have one attached to my main TV as well as a MythTV box).

Eugo, what more do you think he'll get out of a different front end than he would out of the PCH? My MythTV box probably cost almost $2K and its a sexy looking piece of kit, but its also my primary storage. For movies, I never use it, I watch with the PCH as nothing I can do with the HTPC looks as good for as simple as the PCH is to get up and running.

Drobo backend plus multiple PCH frontends would be a pretty simple, elegant solution. The only beef I have with the PCH is its a little ugly...
 

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Oh, don't get me wrong, I use the popcorn hour as my primary interface, but for pictures, music, and visual appeal, it's quite limited. If you're talking movies only, then by all means, the popcorn hour is your man.
 

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Agreed. For my new HT PCH I am going to be looking quite closely at YAMJ and Music Jukebox looks like a pretty good combo to address the interface concerns of both movies and music.
 
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